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Opinion: Religion has a place in public schools

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Having a little faith is becoming a costly trait these days. Tiny Jackson Middle School, nestled in the Appalachian town that bears the same name, made a tiny ripple in national headlines over a portrait of Jesus Christ that has been hung in the building for 65 years. A federal lawsuit brought on by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) claimed the display to be unconstitutional in its promotion of religion on public school grounds after a complaint was filed by a local family.

With cases similar to this making news throughout the country in recent history, a small public school in Appalachian Ohio didn’t seem to carry much weight to the innocent bystander and the ACLU did not seem to be backing down: “Our position on this is clear…the portrait is unconstitutional sponsorship of religion and should be removed,” said spokesperson Nick Worner. That is until Hiram Hasser and David Shaw showed up with different points of view. Hasser, the director of litigation for the Liberty Institute, a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of public religion displays, and Shaw, an attorney at Washington, D.C. based law firm Covington and Burling, came to Jackson with a plan.

The portrait was originally said to be given to and accepted by the school district by the local HI-Y club in 1947. HI-Y is a club organized by the Young Men’s Christian Association for high school boys intended to “create, maintain and extend throughout the school and community, high standards of Christian character…” Seeing as the portrait was related to a student group, one could argue its removal would be abridging their free speech, and after some research Hasser and Shaw backed up that argument.

The two discovered that not only had the club never given the portrait to the district, but there were not even records of an exchange ever existing, only reaffirming the insinuation of the portrait being an item of “private speech.” “It would be unconstitutional to remove it,” said Shaw after the decision.

But in today’s politically correct world bygones can never be bygones and even the truly politically correct word of the Constitution is often not enough to appease a public used to getting what they want. The district has been advised to open up a policy allowing other student groups to hang portraits in the school as well of figures they perceive to be inspirational. Pushing aside the regrettable fact that it took a case on a national level for a policy like this to be passed, the fact that we continually feel the need to appease everybody in our country is becoming played and problematic.

Having a portrait of Jesus Christ in a school is not pushing any 14-year-old toward a life of celibacy or Christianity. But would it be so bad if it did? If a young boy or girl went home to research who that man was and what he stood for, why is this problematic?

On one side of the discussion, it’s OK to believe in something. Just because a child’s parents may be atheists doesn’t mean that child can’t make a decision on his own. On another side, maybe it would be a positive for our children to learn something other than the biased big government crap we print in our public school history books. What is Jesus if not a historical figure or better yet THE historical figure? A little education about a man that shaped our world for better or for worse isn’t a bad thing. You don’t have to believe in a damn thing to believe that.

With public religion today being seemingly only acceptable in professional sports we should allow our children to have an education that includes or at least acknowledges its existence. In a world filled with pregnant 13-year-olds, “sexting” and Buckwild, having a little faith shouldn’t be viewed as a bad thing. It should be viewed as one cost we’re all willing to pay for.

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One Comment

  1. Terry

    February 14, 2013 at 7:32 AM

    1. The Bible is not a historical reference so Jesus is not a historical figure.

    2. If Jesus existed, he seems to have been a nice guy who did good things and people should know about him. Well, the same exact thing can be said about Muhammad. What if a school/public institution only had a portrait of him hanging? What message would that send?

    3. What do you think the original intent was behind hanging a portrait of Christ in a school building during the 1940s? To educate? Or maybe to reinforce/promote certain beliefs? It doesn’t matter how long it has been collecting dust or if no one thinks about it. It’s still a reflection on the school.

    It’s not about parents being atheist, it’s about schools living in the past. Schools are influential places and young minds are impressionable. Of course religion belongs in education, just under the right context. If you’re going to hang pictures of prophets in the hallways to educate your students, you need to hang more than one.


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